Shopping for replacement tires for your vehicle and wondering why there are different tire sizes for the front and the back? If your vehicle has front and rear tires that are different sizes, then it is called a staggered tire fitment. If all four of your tires are the same size, then your vehicle has a square tire setup. In this guide, we’ll cover the pros and cons of the two different fitment types so you can make the best decision on purchasing replacement tires or switching setups entirely.
Square tire fitment
Arguably the biggest advantage of a square tire fitment is the ability to rotate your tires so you get longer life out of them. Since a square tire fitment uses the same tire size on all four corners, you can do a front-to-rear, left-to-right tire rotation to get the most out of your tires. Since a staggered fitment uses different sizes front and rear, you aren’t able to rotate your tires in the same fashion.
Generally, having a square tire fitment equates to a more neutral and balanced driving experience since the contact patch on each corner of your car is the same. Now technically, traction should be identical since all four tires are the same size, but that isn’t necessarily the case due to the added weight for your engine — whether it’s in the front, middle, or rear of your car. Some vehicles however, do have 50:50 weight distribution, resulting in more neutral handling and less understeer when using a square tire setup.
Another benefit to a square tire fitment is simplicity when it comes time to purchasing new tires. Obviously with all four tires being the same size, they’re easier to shop for and more likely to be in stock. In addition, keeping a spare tire is easier, since you know it can go in the front or the rear of the vehicle.
Broadly speaking, square tire fitments are most often found on front- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. If you live somewhere that experiences heavy snow or ice, your winter tires should be a square fitment.
Staggered tire fitment
As we mentioned before, a staggered tire fitment means the drive wheels are typically wider. You’ll most often find staggered tire fitments on front-engine, rear-wheel-drive vehicles. The wider tires in the rear provide more traction and helps improve straight-line acceleration and handling when exiting a corner. It also means that you’re more likely to experience understeer when doing some spirited driving. High-performance sports cars will typically run a staggered tire fitment.
In some instances with a staggered tire fitment, you can rotate the tires left-to-right, but that won’t get you the same longevity as rotating the tires on a square fitment. When shopping for replacement staggered tires, it can be a bit more complicated, but you also might not need to change all four tires at the same time — it’s more likely the rear tires will wear out quicker than the front tires.
Another reason why some car owners prefer a staggered tire fitment is its appearance. Sports cars just simply look better with wider tires in the rear, assuming it’s rear-wheel drive.
Can I switch from a square to a staggered fitment or vice-versa?
If your vehicle came from the factory with a square fitment, you could consider a staggered fitment if you really like the look. But keep in mind that doing so will alter its handling characteristics. The best advice we can offer is to see if other owners have done a specific setup before, and how they liked the results. In some cases, not only can your car’s handling get worse, it could actually accelerate slower if it doesn’t have the power for those wider tires.
You personally need to weigh the differences to see if they’re worth it to you. If you’re considering the swap, consult a tire expert to make sure the fitment will work your vehicle and that you aren’t ruining its handling and potentially causing a safety issue.
The same goes if your vehicle currently has a staggered setup and you’re considering a square fitment. If you care more about economy than performance, then doing the swap will allow you to rotate your tires left-to-right, front-to-back. In fact, there are plenty of vehicle owners out there who have done the switch. Expect to lose some steering response by putting wider tires up front, but you should have better traction.
As we mentioned before, you should consider going from a staggered setup to a square setup if you have to install winter tires onto your vehicle.
Is a staggered fitment or a square fitment better?
There is actually no answer to this question. Each setup has their own advantages and disadvantages and it ultimately comes down to you, the vehicle owner. It is however, more common to switch from staggered to square, mainly to improve tire life.